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J Mater Cycles Waste Manag (2006) 8:9598 DOI 10.


Springer 2006


3rd International Symposium on Feedstock Recycling of Plastics & Other Innovative Plastics Recycling Techniques (ISFR 2005)

Johannes M.N. van Kasteren

Co-gasication of wood and polyethylene with the aim of CO and H2 production

Received: October 19, 2005 / Accepted: January 25, 2006

Abstract This article describes the gasication of polyethylenewood mixtures to form syngas (H2 and CO) with the aim of feedstock recycling via direct fermentation of syngas to ethanol. The aim was to determine the effects of four process parameters on process properties that give insight into the efciency of gasication in general, and particularly into the optimum gasication conditions for the production of ethanol by fermentation of producer gas. Gasication experiments (uidized bed, 800950C) were done under different conditions to optimize the composition of syngas suitable for fermentation purposes. The data obtained were used for statistical analysis and modeling. In this way, the effect of each parameter on the process properties was determined and the model was used to predict the optimum gasication conditions. The parameters varied during the experiment were gasication temperature, equivalence ratio, the ratio of plastic to wood in the feed, and the amount of steam added to the process. The response models obtained proved to be statistically signicant in the experimental domain. The optimum gasication conditions for maximization of carbon monoxide and hydrogen production were identied. The conditions are: temperature 900C, equivalence ratio 0.15, amount of plastic in the feed 0.11 g/g feed, and amount of steam added 0.42 g/g feed. These optimum conditions are at the edge of the present experimental domain. The maximum combined CO and H2 efciency was 42%, and for the maximum yield of CO and H2 it is necessary to minimize the polyethylene content, minimize the added steam and the equivalence ratio, and maximize temperature. Key words Gasication Wood Waste plastics Modeling Polyethylene CO H2-production

Developing countries are dealing with severe sustainability issues, especially concerning energy needs and waste handling. Over the past decades, the use of plastics has become increasingly common in developing countries; methods to dispose of plastic waste, however, have not developed signicantly in these countries. Plastic waste is usually dumped together with organic waste. With the increasing need for energy, the increasing dependency on fossil fuels, and the growing depletion of petroleum reserves, the call for more sustainable solutions becomes louder. The co-gasication of plastic waste and biomass and the subsequent fermentation of the syngas formed to ethanol may be a contribution to the solution of the aforementioned problems. The plastic waste is processed, biomass is used in a more efcient way, and a fuel for transport is produced. It is also a step toward a more sustainable solution to fuel and waste problems, because the conversion of waste to ethanol will reduce the use of fossil fuels and thus save fossil resources at the same time. Gasication is a very old technology; it was used over 180 years ago in blast furnaces in the iron industry. Soon after that, producer gas was used for heating, lighting, and power generation.1 Gasication is a method for converting carbonaceous material to gas. This gas can be used for combustion or for the production of chemicals, for example solvents. In recent decades, much research has been done on the gasication of biomass for the production of renewable energy and fuels. Pinto et al.2 studied the combined steam gasication of biomass and plastic. They studied the effect of the plastic content, the effect of the amount of steam, and the effect of the temperature on the nal gas composition. The production of ethanol by fermentation of sugars is a very old process. Humans have been preparing fermented beverages for more than 5000 years. Fermentation of gasication product gases, however, is a rather new development. Datar et al.3 are working on the fermentation of syngas, and have successfully produced ethanol.

J.M.N. van Kasteren TELOS, P.O. Box 90153, 5000 LE, Tilburg, The Netherlands Tel. +31-13-4662203; Fax +31-13-4663499 e-mail:


The gasication/fermentation pathway is a very interesting development. In traditional fermentation processes, lignin, an important component of biomass, and plastics cannot be fermented. Gasication and subsequent fermentation of the produced gas enables fermentation of any carbon and hydrogen-containing material. The resulting fuel-grade ethanol should make economical operation possible in the near future.

The fermentation of biomass is a very old process. Sugars have been fermented to ethanol for millennia; the fermenting of syngas however is rather new. Fermentation reactions are biological processes. A disadvantage of these processes is that they are generally slower than catalytic processes. There are, however, several advantages in comparison with catalytic processes, for example:4,5 Higher specicity Higher yields Lower energy costs Possible higher resistance to poisoning

To couple both processes (gasication and fermentation) it is crucial that as much CO and/or H2 as possible can be retrieved from the biomass/waste input streams. Especially with the use of polyethylene (PE), ethylene will be formed, which is detrimental to the fermentation bacteria.5 As a result, it is better to choose process conditions that minimize ethylene production and maximize CO and H2 production. The ratio of CO to H2 is not critical because both components react to form the same amount of ethanol. This means that the C/H ratio of the feed to the gasier is not crucial as long as the C and H are converted to CO/H2 mixtures. In the ideal case, this would lead to the following reaction for pure wood: CH1.34O0.66 + 0.17O2 + 0.17H2O 0.28C2H5OH + 0.44CO2 H = 59 kJ/mole Because the fermentation produces CO2, there is always enough CO2 for reaction (2). In this work, the inuence on the CO and H2 yield of feed composition (wood mixed with polyethylene), the amount of steam, the equivalence ratio (ER), and the temperature was studied. The aim was to determine the optimal conditions for maximizing the CO yield, the H2 yield, and their combination. The woodpolyethylene mixture was chosen as a model component because wood represents biomass and polyethylene is known to be the major plastic component in household waste.

Datar and others3,6 have reported the successful fermentation of syngas to ethanol. Fermentation by the acetogens used in that study is reported to follow the acetyl-CoA pathway. Fermentation tests have been carried out in various reactor types. Phillips et al.6 used a stirred batch reactor. Klasson et al.7 used several continuous reactors, namely a stirred-tank reactor, a packed bubble column, and a trickle-bed reactor. The processes took place at 37C and the pH was controlled. A frequently used bacterium is Clostridium ljungdahlii. This bacterium produces acetic acid as a by-product. The overall reactions that form ethanol from CO, CO2, and H2 are: 6CO + 3H2O C2H5OH + 4CO2 6H2 + 2CO2 C2H5OH + 3H2O 4CO + 2H2O CH3COOH + 2CO2 4H2 + 2CO2 CH3COOH + 2H2O G, kJ/mol 216 (1) 97.1 (2) 135 54.8

Experimental methods
The gasication experiments were carried out in uidized bed gasier equipment described elsewhere.8,9 Porous alumina powder was used as bed material with a bed height of 10 cm. The average particle diameter of the powder was 98 m, the same as that used by Slapak.10 The observed minimal uidization velocity at ambient temperature with pure nitrogen as a carrier gas was found to be 0.27 cm/s. The operating conditions studied were: the temperatures tested were 770C until 950C; the feedstock composition used was a wood:polyethylene ratio of 00.4 on a weight basis (g PE/g feed mixture); the amount of steam was varied between 0.4 and 1.4 g steam/g feed mixture (the optimum range as reported by Franco et al.11); and the ER was varied between 0.1 and 0.4. From elemental analysis of wood fuel and PE and considering the major elements, the wood fuel and PE may be represented on a molar basis as CH1.34O0.66 Dry Ash Free (DAF) and C2H4, respectively. Based on this composition, the ER was calculated; complete combustion to CO2 and H2O being an ER of 1 (mole/mole). The nitrogen ow rate was adjusted to keep the total ow of gas within 12 l/min (room temperature) to maintain the experiments in the same uidizing regime. The effects of ER, process temperature, feedstock composition, and steam addition on total CO and H2 efciency was determined. The CO and H2 efciency was dened as:

Competitive reactions form acetic acid as follows: (3) (4)

Via reaction (1), CO is converted to ethanol, producing CO2. H2 is needed to convert the produced CO2 to ethanol by way of reaction (2). It follows that the maximum ethanol yield depends on the composition of the syngas. From the above reactions, it is clear that CO, H2, and CO2 are the only useful gases for the fermentation process. Reactions (3) and (4) produce acetic acid. There is competition between ethanol and acetic acid formation, and the ratio of ethanol and acetic acid produced can be inuenced by several parameters. Klasson et al.7 managed to produce ethanol and acetic acid with a molar product ratio of 4 : 1.

97 Table 1. Gas compositions of the gasication experiments Trial Conditions Results Gas composition excluding nitrogen (v/v) (%) PE content (Wt fraction) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 23 25 26 27 28 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.32 0.11 0.33 0.11 0.33 0.00 0.22 0.21 0.22 0.22 0.22 0.22 0.22 Steam/feed ratio (w/w) 0.43 0.42 0.43 0.42 0.43 0.42 0.43 0.42 1.30 1.27 1.30 1.27 1.28 1.28 1.28 1.28 0.88 0.85 0.85 0.00 0.86 0.86 0.85 0.86 ER () 0.17 0.14 0.17 0.14 0.50 0.42 0.50 0.42 0.17 0.14 0.17 0.14 0.50 0.42 0.50 0.42 0.38 0.30 0.00 0.31 0.31 0.31 0.30 0.31 T (C) 800 800 900 900 800 800 900 900 800 800 900 900 800 800 900 900 850 800 850 850 850 850 850 850 CO H2 CO2 CH4 C2H4 Othera Total gas ow (l/min)

27.5 23.0 25.7 22.6 20.4 16.3 21.6 19.0 19.2 18.1 22.4 19.9 19.0 15.6 18.2 12.8 26.7 18.6 23.9 25.9 19.2 19.7 20.0 20.7

27.2 26.1 30.8 32.1 15.9 15.3 17.0 19.0 37.0 28.9 33.0 27.6 17.8 18.9 19.7 23.8 19.1 21.9 40.5 17.8 21.1 19.9 21.3 19.9

27.2 26.9 26.5 23.0 43.5 40.6 34.9 33.7 31.0 28.2 29.1 25.9 42.4 36.9 36.4 32.2 40.9 40.0 14.9 35.3 36.0 36.1 34.7 35.8

10.9 13.4 11.8 15.3 8.6 11.2 11.1 14.7 8.2 14.0 11.4 18.0 9.1 11.7 10.4 14.2 9.3 11.0 11.6 13.1 14.1 14.0 14.3 13.9

5.6 7.8 4.6 6.4 4.3 8.2 3.7 5.4 2.7 8.2 3.6 7.6 3.8 6.9 3.5 5.5 3.0 6.2 7.5 7.2 6.7 7.2 6.6 6.6

1.5 2.8 0.5 0.7 7.4 8.4 11.8 8.3 1.9 2.6 0.6 0.9 7.9 10.0 11.8 11.5 0.9 2.4 1.7 0.6 2.9 3.1 3.2 3.1

1.3 1.6 1.7 2.0 1.5 1.8 1.7 1.9 2.0 1.7 2.0 1.9 1.8 2.1 2.0 2.2 1.5 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.8 1.7

PE, polyethylene; ER, equivalence ratio; T, temperature a Other compounds are C2H6, C3H8, C3H6, and C4H10

( fCO + fH ) F VM 100% COandH2efciency = rH nH + rC H2

Table 2. Model coefcients for the statistical model of CO and H2 efciency in gasication experiments


Response model coefcient C0 C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8 C9 C10 C11 C12 C13 C14 C15

Parameter value 7.18381E01 5.91432E02 1.86047E03 5.57437E02 4.46713E02 0.00000E+00 1.17419E06 7.84521E03 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 2.08844E02 0.00000E+00 8.19561E05 0.00000E+00 0.00000E+00 1.00000E+00

Where rH is the rate of hydrogen feed in moles of elemenH tal H/min, nH2 is the number of H atoms in one H2 molecule (i.e., 2), rc is the rate of carbon feed in moles of elemental C/min, F is the total gas ow rate (l/min), fCO is the volume fraction of CO in the gas phase, fH is the volume fraction of H2 in gas phase, and VM is the molar volume of gas at 298 K (i.e., 24.4 l/mol gas).

Results and discussion

Table 1 shows the syngas composition as a function of temperature, ER, feed composition, and steam addition. These data were modeled with the aid of the computer program MODDE (Umetrics AB, Malm, Sweden), leading to the following statistical formula for CO and H2 efciency: C0 + C1 ER + C2 T + C3 S + C4 P + C5 ER 2 2 2 2 Y = + C6 T + C7 S + C8 P + C9 ER T + C10 ER S + C11 ER P + C12 P S + C13 T P + C14 S P


Table 2 shows the results of the statistical analysis of the coefcients for the CO and H2 efciency model. Figure 1 shows that the quality of the model (the accuracy of the t to the measured data) is reasonably good. Figure 2 shows the CO and H2 efciency as a function of the amount of steam added to the feed and the temperature at an ER of 0.15 and a PE wt% fraction in the feed of 0.11. It can be seen immediately that the maximum amount of CO and H2 generation occurs at high temperatures. The higher the tem-

Observed versus predicted plot 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 15 20 25 30 Predicted 35 40 45

The response models obtained proved to be statisticlly signicant in the experimental domain. The optimum gasication conditions for maximal CO and H2 production were identied as a temperature of 900C, an ER of 0.15, a feed plastic content of 0.11 g/g feed, and steam addition at 0.42 g/g feed. These optimum conditions are at the edge of the present experimental domain. The maximum combined CO and H2 efciency was 42%, and for the maximum yield of CO and H2 it is necessary to minimize the PE content, minimize the added steam and the equivalence ratio, and maximize the temperature.
Acknowledgments The contribution of Arjen van den Bergh and the nancial support of Senternovem under project number 0268-04-04-20012 are gratefully acknowledged.

Fig. 1. Observed (symbols) versus predicted values of CO and H2 efciency (line)


1. Wereko-Brobby CY, Hagan EB (1996) Biomass conversion and technology. Wiley, Chichester, p 10 2. Pinto F, Franco C, Andre RN, Miranda M, Gulyurtlu I, Cabrita I (2002) Co-gasication study of biomass mixed with plastic wastes. Fuel 81:291297 3. Datar RP, Shenkman RM, Cateni BG, Huhnke RL, Lewis RS (2004) Fermentation of biomass-generated producer gas to ethanol. Biotechnol Bioeng 86:587594 4. Bredwell MD, Srivastava P, Worden RM (1999) Reactor design issues for synthesis-gas fermentations. Biotechnol Prog 15:834 844 5. Klasson KT, Elmore BB, Vega JL, Ackerson MD, Clausen EC, Gaddy JL (1990) Biological production of liquid and gaseous fuels from synthesis-gas. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 24/25:857873 6. Phillips JR, Clausen EC, Gaddy JL (1994) Synthesis gas as substrate for the biological production of fuels and chemicals. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 45/46:145157 7. Klasson KT, Ackerson MD, Clausen EC, Gaddy JL (1993) Biological conversion of coal and coal-derived synthesis gas. Fuel 72: 16731678 8. Slapak MJP, van Kasteren JMN, Drinkenburg AAH (1999) Hydrothermal recycling of PVC in bubbling uidised bed reactor. The inuence of Bed Material and Temperature. Polym Adv Technol 10:596602 9. van Kasteren JMN, Mbele HO (2005) Feedstock recycling of polyethylene-wood mixtures by gasication. In: Mler-Hagedorn M, Bockhorn H (eds) Proceedings Third International Symosium on Feedstock Recycling of Plastics & other innovative Plastics Recycling Techniques, September 2529, Karlsruhe, Germany, 2005, pp 349355, Universittsverlag Karlsruhe, Germany 10. Slapak MJP (1999) Hydrothermal recycling of PVC waste in a bubbling uidized bed reactor. Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven. 11. Franco C, Pinto F, Gulyurtlu I, Cabrita I (2003) The study of reactions inuencing the biomass steam gasication process. Fuel 82: 835842 12. Mbele H, Kasteren JMN, van Katima J, Lemstra PJ, Temu A (2004) The effect of temperature, equivalence ratio and feedstock composition on wood-plastic gasication. In: Proceedings of the Second World Conference on Biomass for Energy, Industry and Climate Protection, 1014 May 2004, Rome, Italy, pp 817820. ETA-Florence, Italy.

Fig. 2. CO and H2 efciency as a function of temperature (T) and the amount of steam added to the feed (S) at an equivalence ratio of 0.15 and a polyethylene weight fraction in the feed of 0.11

perature, the higher the amount of CO and H2 formed. This is according to expectations as syngas formation is thermodynamically favored at high temperatures (>1000C). The plastic fraction seems to be not favorable to the overall efciency for the process conditions investigated as it is known (Kasteren et al., 2002) that PE gasication at 950C leads to char formation and relatively low carbon to gas conversion (50%).10 In contrast, wood forms more CO as a function of increasing temperature.12 The yield of CO and H2 is optimal at high temperatures, low PE content, and low ER. The ER should not be higher than 0.2 to prevent too much CO2 formation. The addition of steam should either be low or high for optimal CO and H2 efciency. From an energetic point of view, as low an amount of steam as possible is preferable, as steam production requires energy. The optimal amount of steam is not clear because the real optimum is outside the experimental domain of our experiments.